April 30, 2011

Stockholm City Bikes

(Edit: this is a post from 2011. To see updated information, click here for the 2012 post) Warmer weather means that the Stockholm City Bike season has started. I have blogged about it last year, but there are a few changes this year (besides their appearance)... so here is an update!
Stockholm City Bike station
The Stockholm City Bikes are a great way to see the city and an inexpensive way to take a bike ride on a sunny day. You can either buy a season card or a three day card. The three day card is what is most interesting for a visitor so I will concentrate on that. The cost is 125 SEK, but as of June 1st it will be raised to 165 SEK. This is due to that the optional 50 SEK insurance will no longer be optional. I often get the question if there isn't a one day card available. The answer is no, but the cost of their 3 day card is much cheaper than renting a bike for one day at a regular bike rental store.
To buy a card: If you are staying at the Rival Hotel then we do sell the cards for hotel guests in the Reception... just talk to me! Otherwise you can buy a card at the Tourist Information Center at Vasagatan or in the Gallerian shopping center. They are also for sale in the SL Centers in certain subway stations (Slussen, T-Centralen and Fridhemsplan).
Rules: You have to be 18 years of age to rent a bike. There are about 90 bike stands throughout the city and they are open between 6am and 10pm every day. You check out your bike using your card and then you have the bike for three hours at a time. If you require a bike longer then you can check in and then check out a new bike at any of the stations.
Please note: There are no bike stands on the island of Skeppsholmen (Modern Art Museum, etc;) and only one bike stand on the island of Djurgården (Vasa Museum, Skansen, etc;). This is beacuse the islands are government owned and there are special laws regarding advertising. So plan accordingly!
If you are interested in renting more advanced bikes (mountain, city, children, etc;) or cycling guides... click here!

April 27, 2011

Valborg Weekend

Valborg at Skansen, photo: Anna Yu
Edit: This is the entry for 2011, for current info... click here! There is lots to do in Stockholm this coming weekend (April 30th & May 1st)! This Saturday is Walpurgis Night or Valborgmässoafton(Valborg), which is marked by a very traditional Spring festival with singing, torch processions and the lighting of bonfires throughout Sweden. There are a few places in Stockholm where visitors can view this tradition in action. One of the best places is at the Skansen Park on the island of Djurgården. There will be speeches, singing by student choirs and processions all afternoon and evening. The bonfire will be lit at 9pm followed by a concert with Swedish singer Patrik Isaksson. Entrance is 100 SEK for adults and 40 SEK for children between 6 and 15. The easiest way to get to Skansen from the Rival Hotel is by the Djurgård commuter ferry. Another good place to see the Valborg celebrations is in the Old Town, just a 10-15 minute walk from the hotel. It all starts with a concert at the Stortorget Square at 7:45pm, followed by a torch-lit procession at 8:10pm from the square to the neighboring island of Riddarholmen. Here the bonfire will be lit at 20:30, followed by singing and a spring-speech or two. There are several other public bonfire celebrations in the city... contact me at the hotel for more information.
Another event in the city this Saturday (April 30th) is the Cherry Blossom Festival (Körsbärsblommans Dag) taking place in the Kungsträdgården park located in the the downtown area. There will be Japanese inspired music and performances in the park between 1pm and 4pm (sponsored by the Japanese Association and the East Asian Antiquities Museum). Otherwise you can just grab a coffee or drink in one of the many cafés and bars in the park and admire the beautiful flowers. Free entrance!
And finally... Sunday, May 1st (Första maj). Nothing really for non-Swedish visitors, but good to mention in case you are curious about the hoopla in the city. This is the day when workers are celebrated! The main event, put on by the Left Party, is a parade starting at Medborgarplats Square at 12pm and ending at Kungsträdgården park (around 1:45pm). In the park, after the parade, there will be speeches and manifestations as well as some music.

April 22, 2011

Events & Festivals- Summer 2011

Photo: Alexander Dokukin- SVB
(Edit: This is the calendar for 2011, to see the calendar for 2014- click here!) Besides all of the wonderful museums, galleries and activities in Stockholm, there are plenty of fun events and festivals going on in the city all summer. A wide variety! Here is a calendar of what is going on with a short description to help you plan your trip/stay. Most of the events and festivals take place, as you will see, in either the Old Town (Gamla Stan), Kungsträdgården or Skansen/Djurgården. These are all easily accessible from the Rival Hotel. The Old Town is a 10-15 minute walk from the hotel, Kungsträdgården is a 20-25 minute walk and the commuter ferries will take you to Skansen and Djurgården. I'll write more about the bigger events as we get closer to the actual dates.
  • April 30th- Walpurgis Night (Valborg): A night of bonfires and singing, more information next week.
  • May 1st- May Day: Political demonstrations in the city.
  • May 16th to 18th- New Sound Made Festival: 3 days of live jazz and pop music in Kungsträdgården. Free!
  • May 17th- Norwegian Constitution Day (syttande mai): Celebrate Norway's national holiday at Skansen.
  • May 27th to 29th- Elitloppet: Three days of horse races (harness & trotting) at Solvalla Race Track.
  • May 28th- Stockholm Marathon: Very popular race through the city. Elite runners and amatuers.
  • June 1st to 6th- Taste of Stockholm (Smaka på Stockholm): Restaurant festival in Kungsträdgården, lots of food, drink & music. Free entrance!
  • June 2nd- Ascension Day (Kristi Himmelsfärds Dag): Bank holiday in Sweden
  • June 2nd to 6th- Early Music Festival: Performances of baroque, renaissance and medieval music in different churches in the Old Town.
  • June 4th- Summerburst Festival: One day festival put on by some of Stockholm's best nightclubs. DJs and live acts at Stockholm Stadion.
  • June 6th- Swedish National Holiday: Bank holiday, celebrations in the city and at Skansen.
  • June 6th- Make Musik Sthlm: Swedish version of Fête de la Musique. Free music at different venues throughout the city.
  • June 17th to 19th- Stockholm Jazz Festival (Jazzfestivalen): Very popular festival. Moving to Skansen this year. Angie Stone will be headlining.
  • June 24th & 25th- Midsummer Holidays: BIG holiday. Many stores & restaurants closed, some museums. Celebrations at Skansen.
  • July 1st to 3rd- Stockholm Green Festival: Celebrate the enviroment and the green movement in Kungsträdgården. Music, food and activites. Free entrance!
  • July 8th to 10th- Stockholm Street Festival: Smaller festival in Kungsträdården featuring some of the world's best street performers. Free entrance.
  • July 9th- Sonisphere Festival: One day heavy metal festival at Globen featuring many great international bands.
  • July 29th- DN Galan: Diamond League track & field competition featuring elite athletes from around the world.
  • August 1st to 7th- Gay Pride Festival: Very popular! Moving to Kungsträdgården this year and free entrance! Loads of music, food & drink. Parade through the city on Saturday. More info!
  • August 13th- Midnight Run (Midnattloppet): Popular late evening run on the island of Södermalm. Festival atmosphere.
  • August 16th to 20th- Youth 08 (Ung 08): Free festival aimed at the teenage crowd... in the downtown area.
  • August 16th to 21st- Culture Festival (Kulturfestivalen): Free festival for everything cultural. Lots of performances! Throughout the downtown area.
  • August 26th & 27th- Popaganda. Pop festival with Swedish and international acts at Eriksdalsbadet.
  • September 3rd- Women's 10K Run (Tjejmilen): For women only! Beautiful run through the parklands of Gärdet and Djurgården.
  • September 17th- Half Marathon: Popular run through the city, with start and finish line at the royal palace.
As you see...plenty to do! I may have missed one or two events, but I'll add them as I find them! The newspaper Dagens Nyheter has a good list of events, including smaller events like concerts and sporting events. The Calendar is in Swedish, but a little Google Translating should help...

April 20, 2011

Waldemarsudde Art Museum

I can't write about the street car trip to Waldemarsudde without writing about the place itself, can I? The full name for this art museum is Prince Eugen's Waldemarsudde which is located on the southern shores of the island of Djurgården. Prince Eugen was the younger brother of the current king's great grandfather and was an accomplished painter and art collector. The prince bought the land in 1899 and had the mansion built upon the premises. Upon his death, Waldemarsudde was turned into an art museum showing his work and collection as well as the work of others in temporary exhibitions. The prince was an avid gardener which is apparent by the gardens surrounding the mansion. In the gardens you will find several sculptures by well know artists like Rodin and Carl Milles.
Besides the permanent collection of Prince Eugene and other Swedish artists, there will be two temporary exhibitions at Waldemarsudde this summer. The first (May 7th to September 18th) is a retrospective of Swedish designer Lars Wallin's career so far. Wallin is Sweden's leading haute couture designer and has dressed Sweden's most beautiful women including the royal family. The exhibition will contain over 150 gowns and sketches. The second exhibition (June 21st to August 28th), in collaboration with the Italian Institute of Culture, will feature some 20 Venetian masterpieces from the 1700's.
The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday, 11am to 5pm... though on Thursday they close at 8pm. Entrance costs 100 SEK, free for youth under 19. Free for Stockholm Card holders. How to get to the museum? Check my blog entry just under this one. Guests from the Rival Hotel can get to Djurgården by ferry from Slussen, then it is just a short walk or bus/tram trip to the museum.

April 19, 2011

Street Car to the island of Djurgården

Stockholm has gorgeous Spring weather this week, so a friend and I headed out to Djurgården yesterday to take advantage of the sunshine. This island is a must for all visitors! Not only can you find art galleries and museums (like the Vasa and Skansen) here, but it is also a huge park... in fact Djurgården is the world's first national city park.
New tram at Waldemarsudde stop
Guests of the Rival Hotel can easily reach the island by taking the commuter ferry from Slussen. But if you find yourself in the downtown area then there is another great way to get to the island: street car (spårvagn)! They have recently (August 2010) extended the line and added new modern trams. The street car line now travels between Sergels Torg (next to T-Centralen subway station) and Waldermarsudde (on Djurgården). Along the way the street car stops at such popular sites as the NK department store, Norrmalmstorg, Strandvägen, Vasa Museum, Skansen and the tivoli Gröna Lund. Click here for a map showing the stops. The antique trams are still in service as well, though they only travel between Norrmalmstorg and Skansen. Stockholmers quickly gave the new street car line the nickname "NK Express" because of its stop in front of the popular department store NK.
Antique tram at Norrmalmstorg stop
Tickets cost 30 SE for adults and 15 SEK for children between 7 and 19. Two children under 7 may travel free when accompanied by an adult. There is no charge if you have one of SL's period based cards (1 day up to 1 month). The SL cards are those that you use for the subway and buses as well. One time SL paper tickets are not valid.

April 16, 2011

Webcams in Stockholm

George Orwell was correct... Big Brother is watching! And, thanks to web cameras set up around Stockholm, everyone can be Big Brother. Webcams are a good way to get some inspiration before a trip, check the weather yourself and feel the pulse of the city. Or just for fun! Here are some good webcams (just click on the name):
  • Slussen- Just a ten minute walk from the Rival Hotel, this camera looks out over the water and the shoreline of the Old Town (Gamla Stan) and the island of Skeppsholmen. Here you can watch the little white ferries which take you to the island of Djurgården.
  • Stureplan- High-end shopping district during the day, nightlife district in the evenings.
  • Stadsgårdskajen- The dock where many cruise ships dock at during the summer as well as where the ferries the Finland depart from. Looking out towards the archipelago and the Baltic Sea.
  • Gamla Stan- The Old Town, with a great view of the royal palace to the right.
They even have a few webcams set up in the Archipelago (Skärgården), a popular day trip during the summer months. I'll add more as they go online in the summer.
  • Sandhamn- in the outer archipelago, a popular destination with the yachting crowd.
  • Vaxholm- a small town in the inner archipelago, the unofficial capital of Skärgården.
Arlanda International airport has three webcams setup around the airport and can be viewed here.

For more Stockholm webcams, check the website webbkameror.se

April 14, 2011

Summer Inspiration!

Yesterday I attended a full day seminar put on by the Stockholm Visitors Board to learn about all the fun and exciting things happening in Stockholm this Summer and even Fall. Events, festivals, exhibitions, sightseeing, day trips... we even got several useful tips and recommendations. All of this left me very inspired for the upcoming Summer season. Can't wait! Keep following my blog in the upcoming weeks to see what I've learned. And to get you inspired, check out their video: "Stockholm Smile"
You can find more of their videos on their YouTube page!

Restaurant- Marie Laveau

Spicy Louisiana Shrimps, Baked Sweet Potato and Crab Cake!
Last week a friend and I went visited Marie Laveau for a couple of drinks and dinner. Marie Laveau is a popular bar and restaurant as well as art gallery(!) and nightclub. It is named after a famous vodoo practitioner who was active in New Orleans during the 1800's and, as the name suggests, they specialize in  Cajun dishes like Creole Crayfish Bisque, Gumbo, Jambalaya and Chipolte Braised Pork Belly. They even have Deep Fried Frog Legs with Hot Pepper Jelly! Mmmm...? Great beer list with beers from American micro-breweries.
Flying Dog Beer
The bar is very popular, especially with the "after work" crowd and was actually named Best Bar in Sockholm 2011 by the White Guide. They have a nightclub (open until 3am Wednesday through Saturday) featuring DJ's from around the world. It's located on Hornsgatan 66, just two blocks from the Rival Hotel!
Click here for more restaurant tips...

April 12, 2011

Stockholm Ports & Docks for Cruise Ships

Photo: Stockholm Business Region, Stockholm Vistitors Board
Summer is around the corner and soon the cruise ship season will start. Cruises in the Baltic Sea have become increasingly popular with such interesting stops like Copenhagen, Tallin, St Petersburg and, of course, Stockholm. I get a lot of questions regarding the distance between the harbour and the Rival Hotel. It is actually not an easy question to answer. What many people don't understand is that there are four main ports servicing cruise ships in the Stockholm area, some closer than others. So the answer depends on which port the cruise ship will be docking at. Here are the four ports and their distance from the hotel:
  • Stadsgården- One of the two main cruise ship ports. It is located on the north-east coast of the island of Södermalm (where the hotel is located as well), just a 10-15 minute taxi ride from the Rival Hotel. This is also the docks where the Birka and Viking Line ferries to Finland and Åland depart from.
  • Frihamnen & Värtahamnen- The other main cruise ship port. These two docks are right next to each other and are located in the northern outskirts of the city, about a 20-30 minute taxi ride from the Rival Hotel. There are also special buses that can take you to the City Terminal next to the Central Train Station.This is also where the Silja Tallink Line ferries to Finland, Latvia and Estonia depart from.
  • Nynäshamn- Cruise ships get bigger and bigger each year and some are so huge that they cannot make it through the narrow straits in the archipelago to get to Stockholm. These ships dock, therefore, in the port of Nynäshamn located just south of Stockholm. Some other cruise ships may dock there if it is especially busy at the other Stockholm ports that day. It is about a 50 minute taxi ride to the hotel, otherwise there is also a commuter train and the cruise ships often have their own buses. This is also where the Destination Gotland ferries to the island of Gotland depart from.
  • Skeppsbron or Strömmen- The smaller, and often fancier, cruise ships (like Silver Seas & Seabourn) sometimes dock right at the Old Town, either at the Skeppsbron dock or moored at a buoy in Strömmen. This is about as central as you can get... just a 15 minute walk or 5 minute taxi ride to the Rival Hotel.
If you don't know which dock your cruise ship will be using, you can check the Ports of Stockholm's website.. For more cruise port information, check Visit Stockholm's cruise page.
EDIT: The Stockholm Cruise Blog has recently made a similar list which can be seen by clicking here.
Photo: Stockholm Business Region, Stockholm Visitors Board
Special "cruise" tip: when arriving or departing Stockholm by ship... make sure you are near a window! It is a breathtaking sight as the ship glides by thousands of islands in the Stockholm archipelago. Not to be missed!

April 9, 2011

Lust & Vice Exhibition

Photo: Nationalmuseum
Last week I stopped by the National Museum to see their new exhibition entitled Lust & Vice. It is an interesting look at how sexuality and morality, as depicted in art, has changed over the past 500 years. The exhibition uses the full gamut of art mediums (paintings, drawings, sculptures, multimedia. etc;) to convey this. There has been some criticism that the exhibition concentrates on the view of a white heterosexual male and, after seeing it, I can see where the criticism comes from. But see the exhibition yourself and make up your own mind! Just be aware that many of the art pieces do depict nudity and sexual matters and some of the more modern pieces can be quite strong in nature. Besides Lust & Vice, there is also another temporary exhibition going on called Shimmering Silver as well as their permanent exhibitions on Swedish design through history and classic art.
Photo: Erik Cornelius, Nationalmuseum 2008
The exhibition runs until August 14th and entrance to the museum costs 120 Sek, free for children under 19 and Stockholm Card holders. The museum is closed on Mondays. It is located across the water from the palace and is easy to get to from the Rival Hotel... just a pleasant 20-25 minute walk through the Old Town, otherwise the closest subway station is Kungsträdgården (blue line).

April 8, 2011

Shopping: Svenskt Tenn has moved (temporarily)!

I have blogged earlier about the popular Swedish interior design store Svenskt Tenn. They have been located on Strandvägen 5 since 1927 and are now in the process of renovating their flagship store. But not to worry, they have temporarily moved shop around the corner at Nybrogatan 15 in the former movie theater Astoria. They plan to have the renovations finished and be back at Strandvägen this September.

Stockholm During the Easter Holidays (2011)

Edit: This is a post from 2011, so the dates are incorrect and some information may be old. Click here to read this year's post. The Easter Holidays (Påsk) are almost upon us. As a visitor to Stokholm there are a few things you should be aware of... things happening in the city and places that may be closed. Both Friday April 22nd (Långfredag) and Monday April 25th (Annandag Påsk) are bank holidays in Sweden, which means that banks, smaller shops & boutiques as well as liquor stores (Systembolaget) will be closed. Easter Sunday (Påsk) is, of course, a holiday. But, besides the above mentioned, most museums, department stores, restaurants and shopping centers are open as usual... with maybe shorter opening hours certain days. Thursday April 21st (Skärtorsdag) is a special day. While not a holiday, many office workers use it as a half-day in anticipation of their long weekend.
The only major museums I found with unsual opening hours this weekend are the History Museum and Waldemarsudde (both closed Friday and Saturday) and the Royal Armoury (closed Friday). Be aware that many museums are closed on Mondays as a rule, this Monday is no different... the Modern Art, Nobel, Medieval and Royal Armoury museums as well as Junibacken will all be closed.
Of special note is April 24th, Easter Sunday. This is the 50th anniversary of the raising of the shipwreck Vasa, now housed at the famous Vasa Museum. There will be lots of celebrations going on this day at the museum with a special new exhibition on the raising of the ship.
All sightseeing tours (bus & boat) will be running as normal.
Skansen, photo by Marie Andersson
As usual, the best place to experience Swedish holiday traditions is Skansen. There are a lot of happenings there all weekend, of specific note is their Easter Market which is open between 11am and 4pm Thursday through Monday. Skansen is easy to get to from the Rival Hotel using the Djurgårds Ferry (Djurgårdsfärjan) from Slussen.

April 6, 2011

Sightseeing by Boat this Spring

The weather is warming up and the ice is disappearing from the waters around Stockholm... all this means that the boat sightseeing tours of the city are starting up again for the season. Stockholm is made up of 14 islands and the best way to see the city is by water. The company Strömma runs the sightseeing boat tours and offers the following tours of the city this Spring:
  1. Royal Canal Tour- Around the island of Djurgården, starts on April 8th with several departures daily.
  2. Under the Bridges Tour- Around the island of Södermalm and a bit into the archipelago. Starts on April 15th but only on the weekends, daily tours start on April 29th.
  3. Historical Canal Tour- Around the island of Kungsholmen, starts on May 28th with several departures daily.
  4. Hop-On-Hop-Off Boat- The name says it all: a great way to see the city and visit some of the most popular tourist sites on your own. Starts on April 29th.
Royal Canal Tour- photo by Gomer Swahn
Of course, the Archipelago Tour continues with three departures a day- Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Daily departures start on June 3rd.

And finally... boat tours to the Drottningholm Palace (on the UNESCO World Heritage List) kick off on April 9th with three trips a day every Saturday and Sunday. Daily trips start on April 30th. 

Tickets can be purchased on their website or at ticket booths where the boats depart. Otherwise, if you are a guest at the Rival Hotel, contact me at the hotel and I can book tickets for you. You will receive a voucher from me and the cost will be added to your room bill.

Spa in the City: Select Collection

Today I visited a relatively new spa in Stockholm called Select Collection. I was intrigued with their concept of combining a travel agency, boutique and spa all in the same locale... a "lifestyle concept", which is very trendy these days. The travel agency concentrates on luxury destinations of the exotic variety and the spa benefits from this as they import both therapists and beauty treatments from exotic places like Thailand, Mauritius and the Maldives. Select Connection is a partner of the famous Six Senses Resorts & Spas. The spa features over 50 beauty treatments ranging from massage to facials to hand & foot therapies and is the only spa in Sweden to use Daniela Steiner beauty products. I tried, and thouroughly enjoyed, a massage and really felt the stress melt away.
One great advantage of this spa is its location, just in between the NK department store and the exclusive shopping districts of Biblioteksgatan & Stureplan. A perfect way to combine a day of shopping with a beauty treatment or massage.
One important note to remember when planning on visiting a spa while in Stockholm... one should book treatments in advance! Spas are often fully booked and it may be hard to find a desired spa, treatment or time slot if you wait until the last minute. If you are interested in booking a treatment at Select Collection, you can contact them at info@selcectcollection.se or call 0046 (0)8 678 1515. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel then you can contact me directly and I will make the necessary arrangements.

April 5, 2011

Spring in Stockholm

Photo: Jeppe Wikström, Stockholm Visitors Board
Temperatures in Stockholm over the past week or so have been between 5 and 10 degrees Celsius and most of the snow has melted away. This might sound cold to you, but for Stockholmers this means that Spring is here! One thing you should know about Swedes in general is that warmer weather and sunshine can make them a little nutty. Considering our loooong cold & dark winters, this is not so strange. Besides green buds on the trees and tulips on sale at all flower stores, one sure sign of Spring is that restaurants & cafés put out their outdoor furniture. It doesn't matter if it is only 8 degrees and you need to keep your winter jacket on... if the sun is shining, a Swede will be sitting outside with their face turned to the sun. Every year more and more restaurants have outdoor seating and during the summer it is almost hard to walk down the sidewalks in some parts of the city. According to Metro Newspaper, over 1,700 restaurants & cafés in Stockholm had outdoor seating in 2010 and they are expecting an increase this year.
Unless there is some freak late snow storm... here at the Rival Hotel we are planning on opening both of our outdoor seating areas (Bistro & Café) on April 15th. Heating lamps and blankets will keep you toasty while waiting for Summer to come to town!
I'll be back within the next couple of days to give some concrete tips on what to do here over the Easter holidays...

April 2, 2011

Sweden Trivia: English

Photo by Ulf Hinds, Stockholms Visitors Board 
One good thing to know when travelling to Stockholm and Sweden is that just about everyone speaks English... and many even speak a third language with little bit less proficiency. EF (Education First) just released a study where they ranked English proficiency in 40 different countries and Sweden came in 4th place. In a separate European Union study, Sweden ranked as 2nd place of all EU countries when it came to speaking English: 85% of Swedes reported being comfortable conversing in English. English is compulsory for all students in Sweden and starts at a very young age  Students are also given the choice of studying a third language (often French, German or Spanish) a little later on. Another reason for the high proficiency is that no movies or TV shows are dubbed (except for young children), all are shown with subtitles.
What does this mean for you as a visitor? Don't be afraid to ask for directions or help while travelling through Sweden! Swedes, especially the younger generations, are proud of their language skills and happy to try them out with visitors.
Click here for more trivia and fun facts about Stockholm & Sweden.